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I have a Sony handycam DCR-HC46, and have recently purchased a pci firewire card with via VT6306 chip since my motherboard doesn't have firewire. I inserted it in and my Ubuntu Gutsy OS detected it automatically so you shouldn't have any problems with that.
To import video from your camera connect it to your computer via firewire cable. I had no luck using USB and have read that quality is better using firewire. But as I said, I never even got it to work.
Software that you will need are Kino and ffmpeg. First one is used to import files to your computer and second one is used to reduce imported movies to acceptable size since one hour takes approximately 12GB. Which is to big for me.
To install these programs open terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install kino ffmpeg
When this is finished type:
You need to start Kino as root from terminal because otherwise you will not see your camera.
Now pres ctrl+P or click on Edit->Preferences.
Select the IEEE 1394 tab
There you should see your camera listed.
Next select the Capture tab and select where you want to save your video. Keep in mind that 60 minutes of tape will take 12GB of space on your hard disk.
Press OK and select the Capture tab on the right. Rewind the tape to the beginning of the tape, or part of video you want to capture, and press Capture button. It's at the bottom with red circle next to it.
When this is finished you will have the video on your computer.
Now press ctrl+O or click on File->Open, navigate to the folder where you have saved your video and select it. It name should end with .dv.
Next click on Export tab on the right. Select tab Other on the top. For Tool select MPEG-4 AVI Dual Pass (FFMPEG) and for Profile select Best Quality. In File section type where you want your video to be saved.
This will give you video with good quality and size of 17MB per minute. Medium Quality will give you video with size of approximately 9MB per minute.
Click on Export at the bottom and thats all.